professional and self-exploration in the digital age

11 Things You Need To Know About Your First “Real” Job

The highs and lows of starting your first “real” job. Learn how to transition into the working world without being blindsided.
A man appears distressed as he faces an open laptop at a desk.
How do you transition into the working world without being blindsided?
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

Your career is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you're going to get. That's the exciting part. It's an adventure in itself.

Nick Carter

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt victimized by family members congratulating you on getting your ”first adult job”. I worked my butt off in several jobs before this, what do you mean “first” job? You become so dedicated to correcting every mishap until it hits you …this really is different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s possible to have a pleasant experience when starting your true career after college. If you’re not one of the lucky ones though, you may experience an intense wake-up call, also known as imposter syndrome, after celebrating your ascendance into adulthood. In an attempt to give you a more realistic transition into adulthood, here are 6 things I discovered and 5 key takeaways I learned as I began my first career after college.

6 Uncomfortable Truths I Discovered

There are going to be times when you wonder if you were truly ready for that role you accepted. Maybe you’ll go as far as I did and contemplate going straight into debt by applying to grad school just to delay adulthood for a second longer.
Advice: When this happens, keep your work routine simple for a while if you can. Log in and do your best without volunteering any more than you were hired to do. Instead of focusing on the whole staircase, laser into the stair right in front of you.
The statement “it’s your first real job” may become your only piece of comfort. While you may have been defensive at first, soon you may start using this to your advantage resulting into half-attempts, self-loathing, or wishing you could be babied by your parents.
Advice: Running away from the struggle will only prolong it. Put your guard down and accept that it’s okay not to be good at everything. You’re new to this and your boss knows that. Instead of hiding at defeat, open the door for compassion even if you’re the only one giving it to yourself. With this, you’ll start to witness the positive effects of calling yourself in.
Your first career can be isolating. Emphasis on can be. The amount of times I heard, “welcome to the real world” and “get used to it” is countless, draining, and quickly became umotivating.
Advice: Find someone who’s going through the same life stage as you whether it’s an acquaintance, old friend, or a friend of a friend. Sometimes one conversation with someone who currently gets it can be a game-changer.
Your honest self will show even when you try to keep up your professional facade and that’s okay. You may have hair-pulling moments where you feel incapable, or you might get into the habit of displaying a different version of yourself every day.
Advice: When you find yourself going through this cycle, find a way to let your emotions out. Whether it’s working out consistently, soul-venting with friends, journaling, meditating or all the above in my case.
No one knows how to comfort you. They’re either already numb to the game or going through it themselves.
Advice: Instead of beating a dead horse, find a safe outlet where you can seek refuge. Ironically, this may also be your workplace. For me, having strategically honest conversations with my boss about what I was going through created a very positive mentorship. This may not be the same for you. I recommend trying it once and if you don’t feel good after having that conversation, find another outlet to try again.
Oftentimes, your first career can be a huge networking opportunity. That’s right, high school never goes away. Networking in your career versus being forced to get to know your classmates can be much more pleasant, but if you’re not semi-prepared for this it can go left quickly and leave you with a lot of anxiety.
Advice: Small pop-up chats can help you get to know your co-workers enough while still providing several exit opportunities. Whether it’s a personal chat once a month or a few group DM’s, don’t be surprised when your boss admires your socialization skills. Who knows, you might just find your next life confidant while you’re at it.

5 Positive Takeaways

  1. Your boss is just another coworker
    I mean, sure, with capabilities to fire you, but don’t be afraid to initiate healthy banter. If you really want your boss to like you, be the person they want to come to when they need a moment to be themselves. You might just find your next bestie.

  2. You’ll be challenged in many ways — mentally, emotionally, and maybe even physically
    While this may seem like a con at first, consider it the ultimate professional and personal development course. Once you get through obstacles you never imagined, you’ll come to the realization that “maybe, you really can do this”. You can, now rock it!

    A man presents an idea confidently in a positive room atmosphere filled with other coworkers.
  3. Even if you hate the job itself, value is all around you
    Sign yourself up for everything within your capacity, even if it’s outside of your comfort zone. It may seem intimidating at first but the more you volunteer for those speaking engagements and get in the room with leadership, the more likely it is that you’ll become one of the most well-versed employees at your company who can handle anything and everything. By the time you land your next job, you’ll be comfortable, confident, and ready to steal the show.

  4. It’s your first job
    While advice from your parents, older friends, and mentors is valid, you’ll soon realize that the professionalism hacks you’ve been taught all your life may not be as important as they seem. Of course, you should always have your own boundaries of how casual you’ll allow yourself to be in a workplace, but lean into the fact that you’re growing. You’ll have moments where you say the wrong thing, say nothing at all, have disputes, and/or major setbacks. This is just the beginning though so, laugh it off, and get back to learning.

  5. It’s okay to have real moments
    As a first gen, the way I carry myself has always had to be important. It took this very humbling transition into the working world and an open-door from my boss to learn that 9 times out of 10, you can be honest — even when the truth isn’t pretty. More times than not, your boss will need a reason bigger than your honesty to make them want to fire you. In fact, having such a real open line of communication was sometimes the only thing that motivated me to keep trying.
It’s safe to say that starting your career is a major transition. Every. Thing. Changes. Starting your career after college is going to test you, sway you, and teach you things about yourself you never knew were there. Instead of allowing the first job in your career path to defeat you, try to soak up as much value as you can and make the most of it. Once you feel like you’ve gotten all the experience you can, start interviewing so you can apply your knowledge elsewhere; move up and out. Either way, make sure you have an end date set in mind from the very beginning. Your first job doesn’t have to be your forever job. Set up healthy boundaries for yourself and I promise you’ll look back in awe of all you’re doing and have accomplished. Now get off the bench and into the arena!

Comment down below: When thinking about your first career, what advice or fears would you share?

Share your thoughts!

Related Posts
Join The Medley

Stay Connected

Follow us on social!